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20                               THE GAY GENIUS

Mencius, with Mencian eloquence and aptness oŁ analogy. Szechuen
people should make good lawyers.

It is for this reason that the people of Meichow acquired the reputa-
tion of being "difficult to govern". Su Tungpo once defended it thus:
the people here, as different from the people of lesS cultivated regions,
could not be easily bullied by a magistrate. The gentry kept law-books
in their homes and "did not regard it as wrong" to be thoroughly con-
versant with the laws and statutes. These scholars tried to live accord-
ing to the laws and wanted to hold the magistrates to them also. If a
magistrate was good and just to the people, they would on his termina-
tion of office make a portrait of him and worship him in their homes
and remember him for fifty years. But, like modern children at school
upon the arrival of a new .teacher, they had a game of their own to
play. When a new magistrate arrived they would test him, and if he
"knew his onions", they would let him alone. But if he was in any
way officious or overbearing, he would have a hard time of it. As Su
explained, they were hard to govern only when the magistrate did not
know how to handle them.

In addition to a certain ancient quaintness in their local customs
and habits, the people of Meichow also had developed a kind of social
aristocracy. The well-known old families were classified as "A" and
"B", and called chiang ching or "river squires". The squires would not
marry their children to other families, however rich and powerful, if
they did not "belong". There was also a well-developed custom of
co-operation among the farmers. In the second month of each year the
farmers would start work on the fields. By the beginning of April
the time came for weeding. The farmers would come together by the
hundreds and work collectively at this chore. They chose two leaders
for command, one in charge of the hour-glass and the other in charge
of a drum, and they started and stopped the day's work according to
.the drum signal. Those who arrived late, or those who were slack, were
fined. Farmers who had proportionately more land but*fewer farm
hands had to make up for it by contributing money to the general
fund. At harvest-time, the villagers came together and made a grand
festival of it. They broke the earthenware "hour-glass" and with the
money from the fines and the assigned dues bought mutton and wine
to celebrate the harvest. The ceremony was preceded by a sacrificial
offering to the god of agriculture, and the people ate and drank and
made merry before they dispersed to their homes.